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Suicide Attacks Rattle Pakistan as Offensive Continues

Ray Suarez speaks with Washington Post reporter Pamela Constable who has been reporting from Islamabad on the Pakistani army's offensive against militants.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Near-simultaneous suicide attacks rocked an Islamic university this morning in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. One bomber targeted the male-segregated part of the campus. Another struck a female-exclusive cafeteria. All told, five were killed, many more wounded.

  • WOMAN (through translator):

    I am fine, but the remaining girls are crying a lot. They are very scared of coming on to the university campus.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    It's the latest in a series of attacks across the country. In the last two weeks, the Pakistani Taliban and its allied factions have attacked army headquarters, government buildings, and police stations.

    In the aftermath of today's bombing, students raged against the Taliban and the government officials who came to survey the damage. Today's strike was the first in the capital since the Pakistani military began a fierce campaign to root out militants in the lawless tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. The army has sent 30,000 troops into South Waziristan, hard by the Afghan border, displacing thousands of civilians as it pursues the Taliban.

    MAJOR GENERAL ATHAR ABBAS, Pakistani military spokesperson: We are very confident that we will be able to block any bulk of movement, bulk — bulk — terrorists in bulk moving out from the area or moving in the area.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The operation is in its fourth day, and is expected to last weeks. We reached The Washington Post's correspondent in Islamabad, Pamela Constable, earlier today.

    Pamela, with all the violence in Pakistan in recent years, has Islamabad been a frequent scene of attacks like this one?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE, "The Washington Post": It has happened several times in the past year or year-and-a-half.

    The first big, very big blast was at the Marriott Hotel last September. And this was really a shock and a wakeup call. It was a terribly large truck bomb with many powerful explosives. And it essentially destroyed the hotel.

    There have been some smaller attacks since then. But the ones today at a university, an Islamic university, with 18,000 students studying the Koran, studying the tenets of Islam, this is sort of — it's broken a new barrier, in some ways.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Was the university a target because it's co-educational, because so many of its students are women?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    That could be a reason.

    One of the bombs did go off in a girls — or women's cafeteria, but the other bomb went off in the Islamic law library faculty lounge. So, there was no immediate, you know, message.

    What it seems like is that this is part of a bigger campaign, of a bigger message by the extremists to weaken the government and to undermine its determination to go in and remove the extremists from the North Waziristan tribal area. That's what people think that this — the broad message of all these recent attacks has been.

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